Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Downs and Ups (part two)

A post by Madame

Fawkner Park was a strange place, this morning: greyed out with mist, but humid. Not a comfortable combination, nor one conducive to tuning in to the night's memories. More annoying than that was the way my mind kept harking back to the nobody's-reading-my-stuff business. Even when I started to see what had happened overnight, that thought kept intruding. Then something I read in The Risen* came to mind. The authors (August Goforth, who's earthside, and Timothy Gray, who's in Spirit) speak at length of the ego-mind, the biological-psychological “self” distinct from what they refer to as Authentic Self (which I'd call soul), that does a fine job of messing us around. I think of ego-mind slightly differently, more like the screw-ups society imposes upon us: things like religious guilt or materialism (the idea that this physical world is all there is, and anything else is delusional). The readiness to feel put out or insulted is a large part of it, too.

Regardless of definitions, the point here was that the way to deal with ego-mind is to acknowledge it with kindness, with love, and move on. Which is essentially what I did, once I recognised the rerun thoughts for what they were.

This is you, isn't it, ego-mind? Look, I know you're upset by this. So am I. But it is, there's nothing we can do about it, and focussing on it's not going to help. We went Home last night, so let's focus on that instead.

Amazingly enough, it worked! I'm not used to telling myself to stop thinking something and getting a result, so thanks to August and Tim for that.

So, what happened at Home? Better than I would have expected. But then, I should have expected it, this being Louis involved!

The first thing I recalled (before getting ego-mind to butt out) was arriving Home, opening the front door and calling, “Sweetheart?” Louis hurried downstairs and we hugged, but instead of my usual “What's for breakfast?” type of enquiry, something else altogether came to mind. Different needs and appetites, as it were, and certainly a lingering wish for comfort. Louis swept me up, then paused, looking around trying to decide where to go - upstairs? The fur rug? Decisions, decisions! I said, “What about the couch?” and that did nicely, thank you.

Segue to drying ourselves after a shower and me asking what he wanted to do today.

“A rest from gardening, I think,” he said, towelling his hair. “Perhaps enjoying a garden instead?”

“Visiting one? That'd be fun. Any ideas where?”

“Shall we go to Sissinghurst?”

“Oh, YES! Let's see the spring planting!”

For those who haven't read it, we visited Sissinghurst-in-Spirit last year. For those who don't know what the earthly Sissinghurst is, it's one of the most famous gardens in England, created from the 1930s by Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson, and now owned by the National Trust. My mother and I visited it in 1993. We were devilish lucky to get there at all. We found out about a day trip there and bought tickets just in time for the last day of its open season.

For our visit to the permanent Sissinghurst, Louis and I put on our glad rags; this was going to be a special day out, not one slobbing around like backpackers. I haven't mentioned it here before, but at Home I have a 1950s-style floral dress, very similar to the one in the picture, which I've worn a few times. I chose that, and asked Louis to wear one of his coloured shirts, rather than a white one. I wanted to see him as glorious in colour as I was going to be. He went for the rich purple, as you can see. Dressed, we held hands and stepped over to Sissinghurst. 

A spring day at Sissinhurst-in-Spirit, with Vita's tower, where she does her writing, in the background.
I don't remember seeing any other visitors, although Louis says there were some around. What I do remember is being greeted by Vita herself. I say “herself” because I've liked and admired her and Harold for years, and there is still, even over There, a certain feeling of meeting a celebrity (and one not just famous for being famous). I might say that Vita, who had her share of snobbishness in her earthly day – not surprising for a scion of the Sackvilles of Knole – was quite taken with having a king come to visit her garden. 
I don't remember the talk in detail, but some snippets came through: Vita calling “Hadji!” (Harold's nickname) to bring him to meet the visitors; asking if she remembered looking from her tower window last year and seeing someone in a crimson cloche hat, because it was me (she did), and talking about how Louis and I are making a knot garden partly inspired by Sissinghurst. Louis had the plan of our garden with him, and we sat looking at it and talking about what flowers might go well for the colours we want. I remember telling Vita how I have no interest in gardening on the earthly side, which surprised her somewhat. “Latent,” is all I remember her saying in response, though I know she said more than that. 

Vita and Harold in the early years of their marriage.

I didn't tell Harold we have a cat named after him (Hadji). Maybe when we know them better ... after all, they have said they will visit us when the garden is planted! It's quite bizarre to think of the two Hadjis meeting. It might not happen, of course. Our Mr Hadji is just as likely to be his usual unsociable self and hide under the bushes somewhere. He hasn't changed much since the earthly days when he would disappear under my bed at any sign of visitors, and my girlfriends dubbed him the Imaginary Cat.

Vita and Harold took us up to the roof of the tower, and we looked over the beautiful countryside. I told them about my earthly visit in '93, and how popular Sissinghurst still is. Harold seemed pleasantly surprised. “It's just as popular as in your time there, possibly more so,” I said. “It's greatly loved.” They opened the garden to the public in the 1950s, and enjoyed the visits of their “shilling people” as I think Vita called them. The garden was well known from her newspaper articles and radio talks and lectures on gardening.

So that was our day at Sissinghurst. I don't remember what else we did, or how we spent our evening, but it lifted me right up to have my darling husband think of a jaunt like that. I could say so much more, but what else is there that I haven't said so many times before?

*The Risen: Dialogues of Love, Grief and Survival Beyond Death, by August Goforth and Timothy Gray. Available from http://www.therisenbooks.com/


August Goforth said...

Awesome demonstration of making awake, Self-determined decisions about how you want to use your mind! Everything you write sounds just right as it comes from your individualized perspective, which each one of us must access, regardless of what others may say . . . truth looks different from different angles.
August and Tim

Dawn J said...

must put Sissinghurst on my list when next I swoop across the pond...right after I make a fortune, of course.

Madame de Monsieur said...

August, Tim, thank you!

It strikes me that when ego-mind is called "monkey mind" they just don't do justice to it. What about KITTEN MIND? Kittens are after all past masters of being easily distracted and having short attention spans.

Plus they're cuter than most monkeys.


Dawn, you'll need a baggage handler for that trip, now won't you? (Python moment: "I'm so worried about the baggage retrieval system they've got at Heathrow.")

mcromance57 said...

I believe Dawn will need several baggage handlers on that trip. Where do I sign-up ;)

Louise - regarding the lack of conversation and responses - someone wrote somewhere, that I read, that for every response to a blog there are probably 100 people who don't. While that might be a high number I know I number myself among those who read, but don't respond and/or join in the conversation very often. Even though I look forward to your and Louis's entries, I sometimes find I don't feel I have anything pertinent to say. So I don't. But I check everyday to see if you've been here and I always enjoy the read ;)

And Sissinghurst sounds truly amazing. Next visit to England I'm going to pull myself out of London and visit more of the rural areas (which will make one husband very happy).

Glad to read that the garden continues to progress. I'm also amused that the seasons at 'home' follow the seasons in the northern hemisphere. Is that by choice?

OK, must go and do some work.

Hugs to you both

love ya


Madame de Monsieur said...

Mwahs and hugs and all those things that usually have icons to represent 'em, Margaret!

Good point about the lack of comments vs actual reads. Sounds like FS, doesn't it? I hadn't thought of that applying to blogs. But you and Dawn are the regulars here, so you each get a trophy or at least an ice cream (you'll just have to wait a few months for it).

Sissinghurst is just gorgeous, and it's not hard to reach from London - it's in Kent. There are heaps of pics of it on the Net, and it's had lots of books written about it, too. I fear me Harold and Vita might be getting a French invasion soon. Louis and I went on a picnic with the family the other night and told 'em about our day there, and now they're all fired up to visit en masse!

I think the seasons at Home are pretty much the northern ones becaues that's where Louis happens to live - somewhere equivalent of the Ile de France where he was born and spent most of his time. Suits me, it means I get alternative seasons all the time!

Madame de Monsieur said...

Oh yea, and Dawn said she's going to have an entourage, so I've put my hand up for the role of PA who doesn't actually do a lot. The baggage handler can be some well-built young piece of eye-candy. Took her all of .0005 seconds to agree to that. :P

Dawn J said...

A large entourage, please! Fetchers and toters, plenty of groveling at my feet! LOL

What, no new posts yet today? I'm so disappointed. Looked forward to reading one while I'm in Iowa. :P

Madame de Monsieur said...

LOL now why could it be I didn't get anything posted today ... couldn't be 'cos I was nattering on Skype ... :P

So it's professional grovellers you want now? Oy, the woman's demands never end!